Catholics "ARISE" in Response to Troubled Times
By Cassie Norton/Staff Writer, The Belmont Citizen-Herald
Belmont, Mass. - It’s a bit of a radical idea for Catholics across America, but at the request of a Boston cardinal, the faithful are gathering in small groups to read the Bible and discuss just what it means to be Catholic in 2009.
“Traditional Catholics didn’t read the Bible, as other religions do,” said Suzanne Nocella, a member of St. Luke’s Parish in Belmont. “It’s a big movement, to get people to read the scriptures themselves. There’s a lot of benefit in that, talking about how there are different interpretations and how those fit into peoples’ lives and inspire them.”
That was part of the idea behind the the creation of ARISE Together in Christ, developed by RENEW International, a Catholic group in New Jersey, at the request of Cardinal Sean O’Malley of the Boston Archdiocese.
Through small groups, limited to 12 parishioners, the goal is to “to deepen our relationship with God, and with each other,” Nocella said.
As the parish coordinator of ARISE for the past two seasons, the six-week sessions that began last fall and just concluded for the spring, Nocella has read the surveys, monitored the groups and seen the difference the program has made in the lives of the parishioners of St. Luke’s.
“We are nourishing and supporting each other within the groups, facing the challenges within everyday life and forming a stronger community to service each other, especially the poor,” she said. “We’re learning how we live the gospel in our daily lives.”
There are around 3,500 participants in ARISE throughout the Boston Roman Catholic Archdiocese, she said, which “suggests that there’s a need, a desire for this.”
A House Divided
O’Malley originally sought a program that would help address the infamous scandals in the Catholic Church that fractured many faith communities, as well as the parish closings in the Boston area. The finalized curriculum does not necessarily speak to those issues; instead, it allows Catholics to heal in each other’s company, and determine how their faith, dented but still strong, is valuable.
Parishioner Bernadette Argenti joined the program in the spring session and said she felt comfortable almost immediately.
She described herself as “an older woman, still searching for some peace within.
“As time goes on, you find yourself reaching in more than out,” she said. “That inner part is maybe the closest to God, and [ARISE] did wake up that part of me.”
She said her group did not speak about “the struggles,” but that Arise helped people to heal by bringing them in from the chaotic outside world.
“You’re not involved in the TV, the radio or the newspapers,” she said. “You’re involved with one another, and what is at the heart of this church.”
Parishioner and Belmont resident Casey Grant has a different perspective. He joined the Catholic Church in the midst of the scandals, because he saw something valuable in faith beyond scandal.
“I see beyond all that in my faith,” he said. “I joined to walk in union not just with the members here, but with the faithful departed.”
Grant said he finds it “very enriching to be involved in an adult faith formation,” and ARISE was no exception.
“It’s a very enriching program, and I look forward to the next session very much,” he said.
Grant will have plenty of opportunity to participate — the program runs for four more sessions, for a total of three years.
More Than the Sum of its Parts
Argenti said the small group session reminded her of the way the Catholic Church began – with tiny parishes comprised of the members of just one village, but connected by faith the larger church.
“If [ARISE] is spreading in the Archdiocese as something that’s positive for members, bringing the church back to its role of loving one another and loving God, that’s a beautiful thing,” she said. “It is a personal journey that becomes a group journey, and something is enriched in each of us because of that.”
After the first session concluded last fall, the church agreed to hold a special Mass for the participants of ARISE. The worth of the program came through after just the first six weeks, Nocella said.
“Sometimes we come to Mass, and we participate in Mass, but not with each other,” she said. “When Mass is over, we get up and leave.”
After the ARISE Mass, she said she “saw a very different spirit that you don’t see at the Sunday or Saturday liturgies. It was such a beautiful spirit.”
This article appeared in The Belmont Citizen-Herald and in its online edition,Wicked Belmont Local. It has been reproduced under the terms of a Creative Commons License
Click to learn more about ARISE Together in Christ.
About RENEW International RENEW International is a canonically-recognized Catholic organization based in Plainfield, NJ, in the Archdiocese of Newark. RENEW International fosters spiritual renewal in the Catholic tradition by empowering individuals and communities to encounter God in everyday life, deepen and share faith, and connect faith with action. Since 1980 RENEW International has revitalized parish life in over 150 dioceses in the United States, touching the lives of 25 million people through its renewal processes. RENEW International also reaches many thousands outside the United States, having served people in 23 countries, across six continents and in 44 languages.